Crossing a Bridge

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Crossing a bridge, I decide to sit.

Breeze blowing, shadows dancing. Brittle leaves scratching the wood. A trickle of water tumbles down through rocks and into the creek. Sunlight filters through the leaves.  Locusts hum, unaware that summer is done. Bird songs welcome Fall. Reflections of branches quiver on the water’s surface. I am grateful for the stillness.

 

A Swaziland Season: Things to Remember

IMG_9167Our family has six months left here in Mbabane. There are so many things I want to remember. “There is such vibrancy of life here,” my husband says. I nod my head.

IMG_5972Swaziland can be so beautiful that it makes you stand still in awe. I never tire of taking in the sight of lush green mountains and big, beautiful flowering trees that surround us, or watching the way light filters through wide banana leaves.

Life here is slower, and teaches us to be more patient. I am grateful for the stillness of early morning, when I can see both the moon and the sun, and dew glistens on the flowers.

IMG_7093Sometimes, rain falls so hard it sounds like drums on the ground, blurring the lines of the mountains and landscape. It washes out roads. Fog envelops our house, its milky swirls obscuring the windows.  Then, skies clear to reveal a gorgeous rainbow, followed by bright, burning sun.

IMG_7865In Malkerns, I overheard these directions: ” Just go down Rainbow Road until you pass all of the chickens where the pineapples are.” I don’t know where that leads, but the description made me want to go there, too.

I’ve discovered how colorful (and funny-looking) birds, lizards, butterflies and grasshoppers can be, right here in our yard (and sometimes in the house). And how animals are cheeky, like the time a monkey took our toast.

And how a stick is not just a branch, but can be used to stir a pitcher of juice, to start a fire, build a home or a market stall.  A stick can become a child’s toy, assistance for walking up hills, or provide protection from wild dogs.IMG_7388I want to hold the images in my mind of:  The emanating smiles and joy of people here, who have so. very. little. Women in dresses working in the fields, babies blanketed to their backs. Hope House_MacdonaldBarefoot cyclists,truck beds crowded with workers braving the elements, children herding cows, wheelbarrows so full of logs, children and heavy loads, one wonders how it doesn’t topple over. Men wearing ski hats in very hot weather. Earth and stone houses with corrugated tin roofs. Tall, spindly Century Trees, and flat, spreading umbrella Acacias. Bone dry river beds, til the rains come.  Men sitting in the dirt by the road, wearing animal fur headbands and loin cloths.  Grilling corn and meat on the roadside- the fire even burns in the rain- not sure how they do it. Burning orange sunsets. And the popping colors of markets.

IMG_4898Hearing the clicking sounds interspersed in lilting siSwati language. Listening to our son speak Zulu. Roosters, peacocks, songbirds, crickets, people singing in the distance, horns and happy cheers at football (soccer) games.  The silence.

I love that our gardener eschewed a mole in our garden by smashing fresh ginger and garlic into a paste on a rock, mixed the paste with water, and poured it into all of the holes. ( It worked!  Who needs pesticide and chemicals)?

I also love that we can pick bananas, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, and avocados right outside. And how delicious the mangoes are here. The salty taste of biltong and the rich, melting flavor of braised oxtail.

We don’t take it for granted that we drive 15 minutes from home and see Zebras. And check the hot springs for crocs before going for a swim.IMG_9146IMG_3985

 

 

 

 

There are so many bits of magic that I hope we can remember to hold in our hearts.

“Let yourself be living poetry.”  -Rumi

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ngiyabonga,

Tracy

Glittering Sand and Reclaiming Wholeness

Do not give up your wilder spirit; the creative spirit thrives on freedom and daring. summarized from Marianne Williamson’s book, “ A Woman’s Worth.”

 

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I listen to our two-year old pretend to be on the phone. “Hello? Hello? I’m fine, okay, bye,” and he hangs up with gusto. I admit, I feel like I do this to my body and mind.
“ Hello? Body and Mind?  Are you there? Ok, bye,” without asking, “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

I find a bruise on my leg from tripping on toys. “Sorry, body, it took a few days to notice…” Oh, and “Sorry, mind, I haven’t been listening to anything you’ve been saying lately about taking care of myself.” (As the cereal box goes into the fridge, and I reach into my purse to discover 2 Matchbox cars, a partially eaten cracker, and unidentifiable objects)…. now, what was I saying?

I ran away from home on Monday (with permission from my family). I was achy, whiny, and burnt out. My honey has a great sense of humor, and it’s always an internal barometer that something in me is frazzled when I’m not laughing and smiling so much because I am just. so darned tired and desperate for time to myself.  Granted, I have a very active toddler, but it wasn’t just that. I felt like a stale cracker with no pizzazz. And I like pizzazz. I want to feel lively, invigorated, creative, energetic, and have joie de vivre, don’t you?

Being alone away from home is different than being alone in my living room, where I’m distracted by what needs cleaning, organizing, planning, picking up, putting away…  Getting outside of my day-to-day environment makes room for serendipity in a place where I can seek solitude, do some soul-searching, and cultivate a happier spirit.  When I feel whole, I’m definitely a better wife, Mama, friend, and person to be around.

Why don’t we take time for ourselves more often? Because it’s hard. Hard to plan, coordinate the meals, transport, childcare, job, projects, school preparation… and so difficult to step away without loads of guilt. However, as a wise friend shared, “if you go to bed at night frustrated that you didn’t have any time for yourself today, it could be because you didn’t factor yourself into the day’s equation. The laundry and dishes can wait. Your sanity cannot.”  It’s hard to hear, but it’s true. And easier said than done, but self-care comes from practice.

Author Joan Anderson says, “ A full life does require cultivation and most women’s lives require some fallow time to restore our spirit, body, and mind.” Amen, sister. And how. How else can we fix ourselves when we feel depleted of energy, worn down, and dulled to our own life by not taking time for ourselves and our passions? To experience all of those great “R” words: radiance, renew, reflect, restore, replenish, repair, reclaim, reignite, and to guide us out of stagnation?

Fortunately, my spouse is an amazing, supportive man who “gets” me. He knows that occasionally, I become like a racehorse who wants out of the gate; to be alone with my thoughts, and discover somewhere new to reinvigorate my creativity, rest, and just be. He’s not threatened by my need to leave for a few days. He knows I will come back a happier woman and Mama.  I smile when he says with warmth, “ Go explore and do your thing. I know you need a break.”  We talked it over at lunch, and I immediately booked a few nights at a lodge and left two days later. I knew if I didn’t just GO, I might not at all.

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So, off I went. Passport in hand, five hours down the road, traversing one border crossing, in search of quietude at the beach. How did it go?

Day One:
Relaxation did not come quickly or easily. It’s hard to suddenly be alone and still, after being on spin cycle. The first day of my time away, I was fidgety. I fiddled around my hotel room, nesting. Straightening lamps and magazines, then stopping myself, realizing I was not here to do any cleaning! I made tea and sat on the balcony for all of ten minutes, feeling anxious and unsettled. I felt a little lost, honestly, without the pitter- patter of tiny feet, clinking of toys, and bustling activity in the room.  I wondered how things were going at home. Would my son eat well? Be sung to, read to, and tucked in? (Yes, but not like Mama would do it. I have to let that go…he needs time with Dad, and to know things can be done differently).

And there was no wireless access, so no hiding behind the computer to distract me from this space that was way too quiet. Ugh. I felt frustrated that I  came here to get away from it all, and then couldn’t stand the silence. Feeling restless, I left my room.  I found a place to have a drink and watch the Tour de France in the company of strangers, realizing it would take longer to get into the slower-paced groove than I thought.

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A twenty-minute stroll on a boardwalk close by helped. The trail was long and winding, with natural doorways formed by brambles.  As I walked through each threshold, I tried to think of something I wanted to leave behind: guilt for being here and stress, for starters. I sauntered along slowly and watched birds, deer, and squirrels, and enjoyed the way light filtered through the trees.

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The sun was setting, and I enjoyed the pink-tinged clouds forming over the estuary, the gentle sway of the reeds and grasses of the wetlands, and listened to the wind and creak of limbs (tree branches, not mine).  I found a pine cone that felt a bit like me, sort of prickly and cracked.

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Returned to my room and called home. Nothing was falling apart. So I soaked in the bath for a long time, lost in thought.  And then, I started, a little  bit, to unwind. I even started humming “my” music, instead of preschool songs.

Day 2:

I woke up early with thoughts spilling out of my head about things that needed to be done for the family and for the house, lists and more lists. I resolved that today I would not worry about everyone else, and try to live in the present.  A gratitude list always helps with this:  the fuzzy scarf I’m wearing, hot coffee, the soft morning light, my honey’s thoughtful note in my suitcase, the sound of our little fella saying cute things on the phone, hearing the sea in the distance.

It’s amazing what happens when you start to hear your own thoughts and get some rest. I realized after breakfast that the book I started a few days ago and brought with me isn’t very good at all. I was just reading it out of habit before bed. I left it at the front desk and took a new one from the freebie bookshelf in the lounge.

Adventure called. With a take-away sandwich from a tea shop, I headed to a nearby national park and drove slower than the speed limit to enjoy the flora, fauna, wide, blue sky, and wildlife. I found a shady spot under a tree to picnic and read on the beach with a majestic view. The tide rhythmically  ebbed and flowed.

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I wrote a couple of postcards. Took a shell-seeking walk. I picked up a section of dry bamboo and twirled it like a baton. I found a pebble, mentally put any stress and negative energy into it, and threw it ceremoniously into the sea. I sat, quietly, letting handfuls of glittering grains of sand sift through my fingers, and felt peace wash over me for the first time in a long while, connected to spirit and earth.

By the end of my sojourn, fueled by communing with nature and abundant solitude, I was ready to return home, more centered and mindful, more whole, feeling more human, and with a softer, lighter spirit.

Here’s to seeking enchantment, however and whenever you can, my friends, wherever you are.

Peace to you,
Tracy

2014 Word: Safari

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Celestial Gift, New Year’s Day

Is it too late to say Happy New Year in February? The first part of the year has flown by. Our family closes 2013 in a new country, having celebrated our first Christmas with a few tears of homesickness, but mostly joy and gratitude for our new lifestyle, friends, and adventures.

It’s summer here in sub-saharan Africa, as polar storms cover the U.S. with heavy snowfall. My mind recognizes the heat, but my body wants to go into winter hibernation. I feel fortunate, however, to have hot sun after a long rainy season, where villagers rarely had dry clothing, and heavy rainfall washed away the leaves, stones, and dirt used to fill potholes the size of bathtubs.

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The rains brought gorgeous, dense and verdant foliage, and in our “surprise” garden, (not knowing what former tenants planted), new flora and fauna bloom and delight us. And, recently, a migration of hundreds of white butterflies fluttered through the tree canopies in our back yard, tumbling in erratic flight patterns like white rose petals falling from the sky. I see movement in the bushes, too, sometimes…is that scampering shadow a mongoose or a huge monitor lizard? Africa constantly feeds our imaginations and keeps us guessing.

Like New Year’s, my birthday is always a time to stop and reflect about the past year, and what’s to come. I received a philosophical birthday wish last week from Dalton, who fills our car at the Engen Petrol station. He jubilantly wished me many more years ahead, and told me to remember, ” Life First.  Problems Later!”  I couldn’t agree more, Dalton. Thanks!

In little nooks and crannies of time since New Year’s, I’ve made it a priority to start going through a slowly accumulated pile of excerpts highlighted in books, articles torn out of magazines, and lists of podcasts, website references, and blogs to peruse. A few messages keep recurring:

  • re-educate yourself to listen and trust the inner-truths
  • follow your intuition, and if it’s really your intuition talking, (your idea or activity) it will lead to a feeling of greater aliveness and power
  • choose how you want your day to unfold, and where you put your energy (not on negativity and all things soul-draining)

I’d love to get up every day and set positive intentions. I suppose it’s like exercise: you just have to get into the habit. Are there days where your head hits the pillow and you wonder where the day went, and how you never found time to X-Y-Z?

Several blogs I enjoy have mentioned choosing a “word for the year.”  What is the word I want to represent 2014? Several words and phrases resonate: authentic. centered. letting go. permission to create. But I think my word for the year will be Safari, as it has connotations of exploring, forging new paths, and discovery.  Which word, image, or quote would you choose for your year?

A quote that speaks to me:

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself
in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats
hides a summons.
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,
but why pretend it is not there?
Source: “The Box”, Terma Collective

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Wishing you an amazing soul safari in 2014.

Cheers,

Starry

Howling at the Moon

Our night guard walked by the patio one evening this week and noted how gorgeous the moon was, and said, “it makes our atmosphere so friendly at night.”

How true.

A pack of neighborhood dogs were howling into the darkness, as if in tribute to a buttery, full moon rising over the mountains.

Our family went to our first Game Reserve, called Mlilwane 20 minutes from Mbabane. Such panoramic views, and we were delighted to see zebras, impalas, baby warthogs running with tails straight up in the air, and other “DLA’s”: Deer Like Animals that we have yet to identify, as we didn’t have a guide.
Here are some photos:

A Tale of Two Cities, a Toddler, Some Tea…

Hi! It’s good to get back to blogging after a little summer break!  So much to catch up on. Took baby Ramsay on a two-city tour of Tucson, Arizona and Columbus, Georgia to see family. It was so much fun to watch him with his grandparents, and so good to get hugs and feel taken care of.

Too many random thoughts for any cohesive writing lately, so here’s a summary of things I am grateful for lately through photos:

The ritual of making tea with loose tea leaves

How baking makes the house smell good. (And the deliciousness of devouring Madeleines).

Quiet time in the evenings to read, and to collage some “mail art” and create with molding paste, which is a fun, new medium I’m learning about.

Discovering what interests my son:  especially the color yellow, and shoes in general.

Surprises and beauty in nature, architecture, and daily life:

Hope your summer is going well, and there are many amazing moments in each day.

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Blossoming Spring

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower... 
first line of a poem by British Poet, Dylan Thomas

April showers turned naked, leafless branches into gorgeous blossoms and  flowering, fluorescent green trees that show off their glory. Even on the grey days, green shoots push through the soil (and bravely force their way through concrete) to announce the end of winter.  Fat, heavy rain drops sit on petals and cobwebs, hydrating the earth. I am grateful for the abundance of beauty in nature.

This month of May, as petals open and the weather warms, may you shed any remnants of winter, feel lighter and brighter, and experience Spring with the wonderment of a child.

Our son, Ramsay, will become a one-year-old in a couple of weeks, and this is his first Spring. Taking walks with him brings me endless joy, as he observes and studies every detail of life around him. His reaction to a thistle reminds us to find fun in the little things. Enjoy this quick video: